Reader Writes, August 2016
The old king slowly and sadly paced the terrace of his summer palace in the cool and quiet of the early morning. Only the swifts screamed and the martins busied themselves in and out of the palace eves. His heart was heavy, but it was the law of the land. Why had he agreed to a people's referendum? He was a kindly monarch and they had no cause to rebel in this way. But the barons of Loamshire were a strong headed lot and insisted on leaving their near neighbours in the uplands of Stonyshire and the forests of Sylvania. We shall trade with all the world, they said! We shall be great without all those uplanders singing loudly on summer nights and holding cattle markets in our streets. Well it was done now; they would have to make the best of a crisis, cut the anchors and ride the storm. There had been nothing like this since Luther; the old king would almost rather see the Turks camped across the river than the breakup of the kingdom. But it was done.
Meanwhile the bishop was equally numbed and shocked. He was a prayerful man and knelt by the window facing the dawn and laid out his heart before the Lord. Ah Lord, he prayed, You are sovereign, you are Lord of all the earth; the earth is indeed yours and everything in it, all men and all beasts. Our times lie in your gracious hand, and we your servants seek your guidance and your power to do your will. As the people's servant, as your shepherd of the Church, what would you have your Church do in this coming storm? He was shocked because he so profoundly didn't wish the kingdom to be broken up, and he loved the uplanders of Stonyshire and the woodlanders of Sylvania, and he didn't wish to be separated from them in their common dream of better lives and Godly comfort.
So what to do? The bishop called for his chaplain, oddly enough a repentant Loamshire corn baron, and gathered his monks; and this may surprise you, but he was a progressive cleric for those tumultuous years, and called for holy women, his translators and healers and prophets, all able to understand the times. They repaired to a secluded garden looking west from the tilting earth, and there they waited on the Lord, poured through scripture, prayed in strange tongues, and they listened and listened for God's quiet approach in the garden.
And in the dawn they found comfort in the prophet Micah, a messenger in troubled times when Judah was invaded and its peoples transported, a time of defeat and humiliation. Yes, there would still be ploughing and sowing and reaping; and there would be poor and rich, the lost and the blind. Hear Micah the prophet “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” So they had work to do, real work.